Moving ahead in JR Daniel Kirk‘s Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? (I can’t get enough of that title, by the way), the connection is drawn between the Kingdom of God (Jesus’ most popular theme) and New Creation, a major emphasis for Paul.
It doesn’t take long before you’re nodding your head, muttering to yourself, “Of course!” Think about it. God creates the whole shebang. The whole shebang goes sheboom. And then God’s working to put the pieces back together. As Jesus is hitting the scene, God is wanting to re-establish His jurisdiction, His kingdom over the whole earth, just as it was before that stupid serpent worked his voodoo on the first couple. If God is successful at this restoration project, it would be as if creation had started all over again. sheBam! New Creation.
There are several elements that Kirk brings forward that I just love. The first is the notion, being rediscovered all across Christendom, that Jesus’ work is about WAY more than just saving people’s souls for heaven. The Gospel isn’t simply about saving people from an eternal ethereal torment so they can sit and play harps in the clouds for a really long time. (Although, think of the callouses you’d develop.) Yes, the Gospel is about restoring people’s relationship with God, but it also has everything to do with every other material object you see on this earth.
To highlight this, Kirk cites Romans 8. Never mind the predestination issue tucked in there, Paul weaves together Jesus’ resurrection with the restoration of humanity’s primal purpose, which is to govern faithfully over the creation (ta-da!). The creation itself will rejoice at the emergence of the sons and daughters of God (Rom 8:19-21). Why would it rejoice? Because the sons and daughters of God will cultivate creation, rather than stripping and abusing it.
Jesus did a whole lot more than save you from hell. And Paul knew it.
Coupled with that, Kirk further highlights the incredibly significant role that humans were always meant to play on the earth. Among the constant themes in this early part of the book is that humanity, since they are in the image of God, were meant to govern the earth on the Creator’s behalf. Certainly, we’ve failed, but Jesus models that role and restores it to those who would receive his Spirit. Therefore, humanity, as sons and daughters of God, have been granted again the mandate and capacity to see through the redemption of the entire creation.
Let me quote Kirk in some length for just a moment:
If new creation is the indispensable goal in general, then the accomplishment of such a creation by means of human agency is just as imperative. The means God ordained for reigning over the earth was a human vicegerent, and if no human could ever fulfill that calling, then God would have to concede defeat to the powers that oppose God. In other words, if God has to save directly, without human mediation, evil wins. Human agency is absolutely essential to God’s fulfilling his purposes in creation (51-52).
If you’ve grown up in a conservative environment that discussed God’s sovereignty as if He were some benevolent dictator – He’ll do what He want whether we’re a part of it or not – then you’re screaming, “Heresy!” But think it over. When God created, He put humans on the earth to oversee it (Gen 1:26-28). If He saves the day without using human agents to accomplish it, evil wins because it will have forced God to reject His creation to save His creation. But the Lord is committed to every last aspect of His good creation.
The point, you matter, like, a ton in the establishment of this New Creation.